Twenty-something years after the move from Bangkok to Farmington
my father built a basement.
In the house in Thailand he built it.
He would tell us about the rain outside that house.
Warm, sticky rain that ran down the street,
a gushing river to a boy still too young for school,
which is where his brothers walked in the morning
down the wet pavement as my dad sat next to them in a laundry basket,
riding the torrents that raced down the gutters.

The basement would flood during the rainy season,
even after the water receded it left behind fingers of mold if you weren’t careful.
The basement was not for storage in this house, it was for the imagination of young boys.
I could see the stone steps leading down into the dank room
where the same laundry basket used on the street became a boat.
It was a place of mystery, a place that I inhabited through the eyes of my father’s memory.

I wished I had a basement that flooded,
that we lived somewhere that had enough rain to change the character of the world it filled.
In my mind I was sure that this Thai basement filled all the way to the top, certain that if Grandma (years before she was a grandma) had thought to open the door the warm water would have rushed up the stairs and out, knocking her over
and then picking her back up as it filled the house.
My uncles might have floated by on a couch cushion,
and maybe they would have let my dad on if they were in a good mood.
Then the whole family would wash out the door and into the front yard.
Three boys, one mom, one dad, and a housekeeper.

My father tore down the basement.
He told us that it had never existed, that one day before I was born
he had asked his mom about it and she had told him there was no basement.
The house hadn’t had a lower level, just the two boring stories that most houses have.
Now the basement was better than before, it wasn’t a basement of stone,
where the rain ruined pictures and mementos carelessly left to rot.
It was a basement of thought and fancy.
And my father, who is a wordsmith and not a handyman,
had built it out of daydreams, and pages of a book he had read.
He had made something real to him, real to me, in a place where nothing had been before.
And I thought, I can build worlds that way.

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